Chameleon Lighting

Chameleon Lighting
Veiled Chameleon, photo by Billy

If you want your chameleon to live a long and healthy life, you should know how to set up proper chameleon lighting.


Some say chameleons are sun worshipers because they spend the majority of their days basking and soaking up the suns rays out in the wild. Having that in mind, you should try to replicate the natural sun outside as best as you can. When trying to mimic the sun, you will be needing bulbs that will give three things…

  1. UVA Rays
  2. UVB Rays
  3. Heat (Approximately 110°F)

Luckily, there are special reptile bulbs to meet these requirements.

Chameleons need UVA

UVA rays are rays that will help chameleons with natural behavior (increases activity), breeding, and basking. They also help with feeding, allowing your chameleons to detect and find their prey easier. Luckily, UVA rays are emitted through heat lamps which you should have for your chameleon already, not making you buy any other types of bulbs. If you still want to add a little more UVA rays, you can add an additional fluorescent bulb.

Chameleons need UVB

UVB lighting is very important for your chameleons health. UVB rays help with the build up of vitamin D throughout the body. Its primary function is to metabolize calcium for proper bone growth.


Without this type of UV radiation, your chameleon will most likely suffer a slow agonizing death from a disease called Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD). Handicaps, multiple fractures, breaks, and paralyzing, come from MBD. Metabolic Bone Disease is the number one reason why most chameleons die in captivity today. The two biggest reasons why this happens is because most chameleon owners do not do research before buying a chameleon and because most pet store workers do not educate their customers properly on how to set up lighting properly in a chameleons enclosure. But don’t worry, you’re reading this now, so you won’t have to worry about this problem later on.


Below is a list of UVB bulbs that we recommend. They are ranked by popularity and use by many reptile enthusiasts.

  1. Reptisun 5.0 by zoomed
  2. Arcadia D3 6%
  3. Exo Terra Repti Glo 5.0

Most light fixtures come with a plastic see through cover to protect the light bulb. Some of these plastic see through covers block UVB rays (not all), but to be safe, make sure to remove the plastic cover.


When choosing a UVB bulb, try to avoid getting coil version type light bulbs. Coil bulbs do not last as long as the tube versions and do not take up nearly half the length of what tube versions can. A lot of people will also argue that “coil versions mess with reptiles eye sights”. Although I am unsure if this statement is true or not, I would not risk it. Another thing you want to do when picking out a UVB bulb is to make sure that you get one that will take up at least 3/4 of the enclosure. Anything smaller will give your chameleon a chance to hide from the UVB bulb.


Remember: UVB bulbs have a lifespan of about 7 months. After this time period, the UVB bulb will have little effect on your chameleon because the UVB rays will have worn out by then. So make sure to replace them every 7 months.

Chameleons need a Basking Spot Lamp

Chameleons bask all day, so you will definitely be needing a basking spot lamp. Choosing a basking spot lamp depends on the location and size of the chameleons enclosure. If you live somewhere cold, you will want to buy a heat lamp that has a higher wattage. On the other hand, if you live somewhere warm, you will want to buy a heat lamp that has a lower wattage. The amount of wattage will also depend on where you will be hanging your heat lamp (the distance from your lamp to the chameleon). The higher the heat lamp is, the more wattage you will be needing. Sometimes, a house held bulb will do the trick. So test one out and check the temperature with a thermometer before you buy an expensive heat bulb.


Below are temperatures of what the basking spot should be.

Veiled Basking Temperature

Baby/juvenile: Basking 85ºF
Adult males: Basking 90 – 95ºF
Adult females: Basking 85ºF

Panther Basking Temperature

Baby/juvenile: basking 82ºF
Adult males: 85 – 90ºF
Adult females:80 – 85ºF

Jackson Basking Temperature

Baby/juvenile: Basking 75 – 80ºF
Adult males: 82 – 85ºF

Adult females: 80 – 82ºF

Pygmy Basking Temperature

All: 70 – 75ºF

Pygmies are very delicate chameleons. Temperatures must stay within the 70-75F range throughout the entire enclosure.

Chameleon Night Light

Usually you wont be needing any source of heat at night unless it gets really cold in your house. Chameleons do well with a 10 degree drop at night with no problem. But if you see that it is getting way too cold, go with a ceramic heat emitter. It does not give off any type of light, only warmth, so you wont have to worry about it bothering your chameleons sleep. Some people may recommend to use a red heat light at night because they can’t see the color red, while others will argue that they can see the red light and it does bother them at night. So to be safe, go with a ceramic heat emitter. Check the wattage’s though, some can get really hot.

Chameleon Lighting Schedule

Your chameleon lighting schedule should follow a daily routine. The best way to do this is by buying an electrical outlet timer which can be set up to turn on and off at specific times during the day. With chameleons, you are going to want to follow a 12 hour on 12 hour off light cycle. If you are the one that likes taking things to the next level, you can change up the hours during the winter and summer. You may adjust the light cycle to 10 hours on during the winter and 14 hours on during the summer. Some may choose to change up the light cycle to replicate the seasonal changes and others may not, it’s really up to you if you’d like to do this. The important thing here is to have a routine and stick with it.

Lighting Placement

All lights should be facing down, from the top of your enclosure. Never hang or place a light on the side of your enclosure. This will usually cause eye irritation and stress.


As mentioned before, chameleons love to bask and will bask the majority of the day. This is why you should place the basking spot lamp and the UVB bulb close together. If you separate the two by putting one on each side of the enclosure, there will be a possibility that your chameleon will suffer a lack of UVB rays. So make sure to place them close together.

Natural Sunlight for Chameleons

Nothing is better than natural sunlight for chameleons. Natural sunlight is better than any UVB & UVA bulb out there. If it is sunny outside, let your chameleon spend a few hours outside, in a protected area of course. You should always watch your chameleon when being put outside. I have heard way too many stories of owners leaving their chameleon outside for a little bit then coming back to see a few birds trying to break through the enclosure. Imagine how much stress that would put on your chameleon.


Getting sunlight outside is not the same as getting sunlight through a window. Glass is proven to block more than 95% of UVB rays, so don’t plan on placing your chameleons enclosure next to a window thinking its the same. This method will not work and your chameleon will suffer from a lack of UVB rays. Unless it is direct sunlight, it will not work. Plus, the heat from the sun through a window can be seriously dangerous to your chameleon.


Hopefully, now you have a better understanding on how to set up proper chameleon lighting.


  1. Thank you so much for all your helpful information! I just have one question. What brands of basking spot bulbs do you recommend? Thank you!

    • you can just use any old incandescent house bulbs. the fancy shmancy reptile heat bulbs are just a waste of money

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